LA-based artist, De'Wayne Jackson has a burning fire to push himself above and beyond. Having moved from a small town in Houston to the bustling life of Los Angeles, he takes risks and expresses those fearless strengths in his latest EP Don't Be Afraid. He effortlessly hones in on a diverse soundscape, merging qualities of alt-rock, RnB, and hip hop, and takes us on an deep and emotional journey.
We chat to De'Wayne about his latest EP Don't Be Afraid, the biggest hurdles he's had to overcome, and what we can expect from him in the future. Ayla Dhyani writes.
Tell us about your EP Don’t Be Afraid. What does it mean to you?
To mean it really means just what it’s saying, “don’t be afraid.” I just want to tell anyone who hears the EP, that you literally only have this one time, only one chance to make a difference and an impact on your life or somebody else’s life. You can’t be afraid to try and to go forward. I feel that a lot of people have dreams, but they’ve got their own thing going and just do what’s comfortable. I believe that people should do what they believe in, and that’s really what I was trying to say on the EP. I think it’s very important and we’re all still trying to learn and grow from that concept.
Absolutely. I’m sure we can all relate to that. From a musical standpoint, what can listeners expect from the EP?
There are a lot of different sounds. There a lot of combing genres. There's the rock sound, the hip hop sound, the RnB sound, but they all combine to give these stories. We tried to bring it together sonically and change the tempos up to create something different to what you’d expect. It's just a good mixture of a lot of things that I’m inspired by. I really want to give a taste of all of it on the EP. That way people can really understand where I’m coming from and that I really just don’t want to be boxed in as an artist. As far as different sounds go, I just wanna make cool music. Whatever genre comes out.
Based on your latest track 'Truth Is', you had quite a religious upbringing. How did that influence your style of music?
For me, with the religious thing, it really gave me something to believe in and really gave me a lot of faith. Even if it was just prayers or believing in a higher power, I really just looked to that for guidance. It helped me make that move to LA from back home. Having faith and having religion behind me really played a big role for me. It gave me something to lean on.
With your move from Texas to LA, how do you find the difference in the hip hop community between the two cities?
It was a huge difference. Back home, I stayed in a suburb just outside of Houston, which was very stagnant. It's very closed minded where I'm from. You do one thing, then you take the next step, then you take the same next step, and there’s just a cycle that goes on. I find LA is a lot more open minded and I feel that I’ve learnt a lot more about myself. I’m still learning a lot about myself, but LA just really gave me the opportunity to really find who I was instead of being in this box of things that you have to do because your parents or your community are telling you to do things a certain way. It was a big change in a really positive way. It showed me who I wanted to become, so it was a good transition. I really love it here.
Absolutely. I feel that it is so important to pull yourself away from the box that you have been placed into your entire life. There are so many preconceived notions about who you are, and to take that step and discover yourself organically is pretty powerful.
100%. I completely agree with you.
And how did you first start writing music? What was the initial influence?
I was about 14yo and I had some friends that I went to school with who were trying trying to get a studio going. Of course, we didn’t have any of that or any money at all (laughs). So, my cousin ended up buying me a mic and once I started to really put my foot in, it really connected with me like nothing else I had ever done in my life. I had done sports and other things like that, but when it came to music, it really connected with me both emotionally and spiritually. It was from then on that I knew I wanted to do it.
What’s the most intense moment in your music career so far? A moment where you felt “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this."
Honestly, I just had a show the other night for the EP launch. I had this feeling when I was on the stage where it was the most intense feeling I’ve ever felt. I really wanted to make myself proud and make my family proud, and make the people who came out to support me happy. It was a crazy feeling. I’d just never really felt anything like that. It wasn’t about the pressure or anything, I just really wanted to give a beautiful show. It was great.
I feel like we’ve touched on this already, but what’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely moving to LA. When I came out here I was living in a small studio apartment in Hollywood, paying rent that I couldn't afford and I was working two jobs. I worked at Taco Bell in the night time, and this paint company in the morning. Doing that and still trying to create music was very difficult for me. It was really tough. It was a dark time for me, honestly. Having just left home, it was really hard. It was difficult for me to not call my parents and ask for help or just go back home. But it inspired my EP, so now I’m just happy that people like it and hopefully it continues to grow. That was definitely the hardest time.
Now that you’ve pushed yourself to that level, what do you anticipate for the future?
For this year, I really want to work on an album or my next project. Whatever that’s going to be. I just want to continue to make new songs. I really want to get on the road as well, and perform this EP for as many people as I can this year. I really want to do that and just spread it as far as I can. That’s the main goal for me.
What moves you?
For me, just being a better artist and being a better person. I really want to be good at this. That’s what really pushes me. Of course I want to take care of my family and do that, but I really want to be a good artist. I want to grow, tell stories, and reach out to others. I just want to be great to be honest (laughs).
Stream Don't Be Afraid here.